A Universe With A Mission?

Question from The Devil’s Advocate:
This question is going to be different. That is to say, I’m inclined to think that it should be interpreted and processed in a somewhat different manner than most of the emails you receive. It’s about what might be, rather than what is. In my experience, a significant minority, if not the majority, of atheists tend to take the position that there’s no point in exploring a possibility unless there’s evidence in support of that possibility. Most of the time, that makes a lot of sense. Are reptilian fairies from the seventh dimension kidnapping homeless people and prodding them with rectal probes? Well, if there’s no scientifically credible empirical evidence in support of the possibilities, why even pursue that possibility?

However, there are conceptual frameworks in which what might be can be almost as illuminating as what is. Science fiction literature is all about what MIGHT be, as opposed to what is or what will be. Exploring what MIGHT be (with the rigor and scientific literacy of someone like Issac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke) can be extremely illuminating.

I’m going to make this as brief as possible on the assumption that you’re smart enough to appreciate the full implications of the possibilities that I’m alluding to here.

Consider the power of technology. Consider the exponential rate at which that power has grown over the course of only a few generations. If we don’t kill ourselves off as a result of our animalistic instincts, consider the power that human technology will wield a thousand years from now. Imagine a civilization that has been fully technological, as we presently are, for a hundred thousand years. Or a million years. Can you grasp that intuitively? The scale at least? The mind-numbing scale?

Okay. Here’s the deal. It appears to me that there are no forces in the known universe even remotely as potentially powerful as technology (applied science). What are the most powerful natural forces we know of? A supernova? The mega black holes at the center of most galaxies? I don’t know if you’re a futurist or a science fiction fan, but if you are, you KNOW that a supernova or a mega black hole doesn’t even BEGIN to compare to the technological power that a civilization ten thousand years more technologically advanced than us could conceivably wield. So, here’s the paradigm that I hope to communicate…

Given the mind-numbing, breathtaking power of advanced technology… and by that I don’t mean Star Wars or Star Trek because mainstream science fiction only depicts technologies a hair’s breath more advanced than our own, for utterly pragmatic reasons. (If a mainstream science fiction film were to depict a technology ten thousand years more advanced than our own it, watching it would be like having an acid trip– nothing in it would be at all comprehensible– therefore there’s no financial motivation to produce such a film. The technologies in Star Wars and Star Trek are JUST BARELY more advanced than our own, by necessity.)

Given the mind-numbing, breathtaking power of advanced technology… and the fact that nothing that we currently know about anywhere in the multiverse can even begin to compare with that potential power— is it so outrageous to think that LIFE (which is the source of such technology) could possibly be an even bigger influence in the configuration of the cosmos as gravity? What if– and mind you, this isn’t random speculation– this is in the broader context of the mind-numbing potential power to which I am referring– what if LIFE (both biological and silicon-based) is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, forces defining the form that the multiverse takes?

That could very well include universes designed and created for a particular purpose (or something not completely unlike “purpose”) by intelligent entities. The particular (unexpected and rather surprising) delicately balanced configuration of natural laws in our own universe, which seems unexpectedly predisposed towards allowing for the evolution of life– could, in principle, be explained by such forces.

There is, to be sure, some speculation embedded in the above. But the mind-numbing potential power of technology, which seems to vastly exceed all other known forces in potential, isn’t speculation. That’s concrete, and unavoidable. Is there anything that we know of in the universe/multiverse at the moment that could conceivably compete with a technology 500, 000 years more advanced than our own? If not, wouldn’t that imply a possibility that entire universes might be purposefully and intentionally designed and created for a purpose?

Note, what I’m eluding to here is the empirical potential POWER of applied science, relative to the potential power of other, puny, natural forces like supernova explosions. That’s the empirical reality to which I’m referring. Not blind speculation– but that potential power, and how much greater it is than any other natural power we know of.

My Question: What do you think about the possibility, implied above, that we might live in a universe– or rather a multiverse– in which universes are created intentionally for a particular purpose or in a search for existential meaning? And, do you appreciate the EMPIRICAL reality of this paradigm? The EMPIRICAL foundational reality that inspires the speculation?

Answer by SmartLX:
Yes, there is a possibility that we are in a universe that was created for a purpose. Not really with you on the rest of this.

I’m a huge sci-fi fan, but the power of technology in science fiction is speculation by definition and very little about it is empirical. There are any number of potential roadblocks to the mind-boggling progress you describe. The seemingly most likely two are:
1. Some of the critical technologies common to futuristic stories, like faster-than-light travel, may simply be impossible to make practical according to the laws of physics.
2. Due to social and psychological factors, a civilisation may be incapable of maintaining a discipline of scientific advancement long enough (or even surviving long enough) to reach speculated levels. We may be fated to destroy ourselves with present-day technology, or to repeat a cycle of dark ages and renaissances.

Even if life and technology are as unthinkably powerful as sci-fi makes them look, just the possibility of creating a universe does not mean every universe is created. Life may have to evolve and develop technology at least once in a natural universe, and this may be it. Or there may only be one universe, or all universes exist concurrently, so that there was no “before” for a creator to exist in. Or the universe may not have begun to exist at all, if the Big Bang was merely a transitional event.

The more you imagine, just as sci-fi authors do, the more possible explanations you come up with, and the less likely any given scenario seems with the sole supporting argument that it seems plausible.

9 thoughts on “A Universe With A Mission?”

  1. At least your English is ok. As for the rest, just read your demand that SmartXL consider the humanity after a MILLION years of time… hahaha!!!
    With the same right of stupidity and lunacy, why, it is not only your birth ritght to be so, I have the right to be these two thing as well, I have a counter demand that I am asking of you, that you consider reading a little of sound science, that is about our sun, which has its expiring date. And, not only that, all of your post is, well, kinda psychotic. Or, you probably plan that our technology will allow us to go to other planets. You read too much of Stephen Hawking, but he was only joking…hahaha!!!

  2. It’s been three days since this thing has been published, and no one bothered to comment on it, I don’t count, cause I comment on each and every and all posts that SmartXL publishes here, this way or that, so I can see that I was right thinking, as soon as I had read the piece, that it is NOT A BIG DEAL, as its author seems to think about it and himself. Nobody got exited about it, except his mum. Again, I don’t count. Because, if it WERE a big deal, it would have produced some dust behind GOOD HORSE. But, this horse seems to not be after all even a horse, just a donkey. Or monkey.

  3. Well … Mr. Devil’s Advocate … the devil’s in the details.
    Technology is a powerful thing for sure – but in our current universe at-least, it too is “limited” by the speed of light limit. And then, science itself tells us of the 2nd law of thermodynamics and how everything is “winding down” in the universe, in a sense – thus limiting what may be achieved by technology (technology cannot reduce universal entropy).
    But forget all the technical objections … let’s consider what you say about life being fundamental and intelligence intentionally creating universes (whatever it is that all this means, if anything).

    I think you add a very human concept of “intentionality” into the whole mix.
    And since you do, I have a bunch of questions that need explanations …
    Why must there be any intention behind the universes being created in the way you mention?
    If there is intelligence that is able to create universes, won’t that intelligence already have a firm and clear grasp on whatever it is that you mean by “existential meaning”?
    How did that intelligence (or intelligences) come into existence in the first place – what was before them?
    Why would it/ they bother to create anything at all?
    Or why would it/ they not?
    Are you saying that the intelligence tweaks the constants of the infinite universes and observes how they pan out (each panning out very differently from each other)?
    And what does that help it in?
    Does that intelligence (or intelligences) want to design a “perfect universe”. What is it trying to achieve? What does perfect even mean in such a context?
    What is there for it to achieve?
    How does the “intentional infinite universes” hypothesis add in any way to the usual Physics and Math based infinite universe models?
    I could go on and on …

    And please don’t be saying that it’s impossible for finite minds like ours to understand the operations of such an intelligence. That’s just like saying “God moves in mysterious ways” … just in a more round-about manner/ in more sophisticated language.

    The point I am trying to make in all this is simple … trying to answer any of the above questions will take you further and further into the realm of “soft” speculation i.e. involving no calculations or Math (the scientific name for the discipline of “hard” speculation, by the way, seems to be … “Physics” of the post standard model variety 🙂 ).
    Soft speculation is helpful in coming up with a lot of what-ifs (like you’ve come up with) and fantastic scenarios (emphasis on fantasy). But unfortunately, the colloquial term for soft-speculation is also “woo-woo”. Maybe there’s a thin like that separates soft separation from woo-woo actually (in my opinion). But its probably so thin that its easy to miss.
    So its somewhat better to stick to hard speculation (of the kind where science leads us) … and even hard speculation can be intensely trippy and strange and not related to reality at all (there are innumerable failed models/ theories in Physics for e.g. – some with beautiful and consistent Math).
    It all essentially boils down to fitting speculations (of any sort) with the observable i.e. for the speculations to be testable… the flaw in your (and similar) soft speculations is that they aren’t that way.
    Becomes hard to separate the woo from the intelligent speculation … unless there’s some way to coherently and clearly answer some of the questions I’ve enumerated above … instead of just giving more speculations as answers 🙂
    In the meantime … I’d prefer to stick with scientific speculation of the hard kind (which as I mentioned, can be as undecipherable and trippy but just not as fully free-wheeling as its soft counterpart).

      1. 🙂 … I guess we must patiently do what we can to change faulty mental states.
        Its no easy task for sure – requires a lot of repetition that can become exasperating at times.
        There is so much to be enjoyed in the world, but unfortunately people (esp religious/ superstitious/ new-agey ones) just get trapped in their own mental cobwebs of weird beliefs.
        Whatever we can do to patiently dispel that smog (while being cognisant of our own short-comings), we must I guess.

  4. Devil’s Advocate:

    I’d like to comment on certain aspects of your post if I may.

    You wrote: [Okay. Here’s the deal. It appears to me that there are no forces in the known universe even remotely as potentially powerful as technology (applied science).]

    It depends on what you mean by “force”. The force of gravity, for example, is certainly more powerful than any technology we have. Nothing can resist gravity, not even light. In this sense the force of nature rules supreme. I realize that you aren’t necessarily try to comment in this way, yet by using the word “force” I don’t feel you are giving the laws of the universe their proper due. Every technology we have still has to operate under the laws of chemistry, and physics, and thermodynamics. Certainly we can do some very amazing things compared to just 200 years ago, but we can only do them within the confines of what the universal rules allow. We could speculate on what technology can do in the future, but there’s no reason to think it will ever be able to violate a conservation law or universal speed limit. There does appear to be a limit to that “potential”.

    [is it so outrageous to think that LIFE (which is the source of such technology) could possibly be an even bigger influence in the configuration of the cosmos as gravity?]

    Yes, I think it is rather outrageous to think that. Life only exists because the rules of the universe allow it to exist. Everything we think and do uses material and energy that is confined by those rules. All our physical technologies is limited by what is allowed under the laws of chemistry, physics, thermodynamics, et al. Even our own brains work entirely under the universal laws. It is not logical to think that a technology built under those universal rules could somehow violate those same rules after the fact. I don;t see how life, made up of matter and energy, could be a bigger influence than the very negative force (gravity) that all that matter and energy are directly influenced by and interact with.

    [ what if LIFE (both biological and silicon-based) is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, forces defining the form that the multiverse takes?]

    Life isn’t a force. Life is in response to what is possible based on the forces that are in play.

    [That could very well include universes designed and created for a particular purpose (or something not completely unlike “purpose”) by intelligent entities.]

    You sound like a theist in sheep’s clothing here. Isn’t what you just said the same thing as a god? And since there is no evidence that gods exist, or that this universe was created, there is no reason to consider such dribble as even remotely plausible. As you said, without data and evidence, it’s all just wild conjecture, eh?

    [The particular (unexpected and rather surprising) delicately balanced configuration of natural laws in our own universe, which seems unexpectedly predisposed towards allowing for the evolution of life– could, in principle, be explained by such forces.]

    Sounds rather like a religious argument to me. The “fine-tuning” argument I believe its called. Only that argument isn’t worth the paper it’s usually written on. This universe is hardly “predisposed” towards allowing for the existence of life. The vast, vast, VAST majority of this universe is decidedly unfriendly to carbon based life forms like ourselves. Even on our own planet there have been several mass extinctions that almost wiped life from the Earth. Life has a tenuous hold on this particular rock and may not exist elsewhere in the entire cosmos, so claiming that this universe is somehow predisposed to allow life is contrary to all the evidence on the matter.

    We only know what is possible in THIS universe, with THIS set of universal rules. There could be a whole range of rules that would allow some sort of living thing to form from non-living components. Problem is we have no idea what that could be, because we only know for sure that this universe allows it under this set of rules. Life may be possible under an incredible range of laws and scales. So claiming delicate balances and predisposed conditions is nothing more than human hubris, ignoring the fact that we don’t know the limits of how and when life could be possible.

    [If not, wouldn’t that imply a possibility that entire universes might be purposefully and intentionally designed and created for a purpose?]

    Nope. That’s a wildly speculative conclusion reached with irrational conclusions based on logical fallacies like the fine-tuning argument. That simply doesn’t work as a valid starting point my theist friend…

    [Not blind speculation– but that potential power, and how much greater it is than any other natural power we know of.]

    But it is blind speculation. Counting on technology that doesn’t exist to somehow get us to create a universe…that isn’t blind speculation?

    [What do you think about the possibility, implied above, that we might live in a universe– or rather a multiverse– in which universes are created intentionally for a particular purpose or in a search for existential meaning? And, do you appreciate the EMPIRICAL reality of this paradigm? The EMPIRICAL foundational reality that inspires the speculation?]

    There’s nothing implied other than fanciful conjecture. There is also NO empirical reality to such a claim. What data and evidence have you provided, exactly? That technology has increased a lot over the last 200 years? That doesn’t guarantee that it will always advance, or that it will ever reach a finding that will allow humans to somehow break conservation laws and create other universes outside of this one. I’m sorry Devil, but all I see is a veiled attempt to argue for the existence of a creator being. Which brings us back to the same point we always get to when we talk about creator beings….got any proof for one? No, I didn’t think so….

  5. i thought he was a hidden theist, hidden because he knows atheists are more intelligent and educated, on the average. to me his piece sounds crazy

  6. By the way folks … a very interesting reading of what might be physically possible with advanced technology (wielded by a super-intelligent AI) can be found in Ch 6 of Max Tegmark’s book “Life 3.0 – Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”. Its more or less a stand-alone chapter.
    And Devil’s Advocate, please note … its not at all how you seem to think it is, though its still pretty powerful.

    Tegmark seems to want to expand life to the farthest extent possible (without giving any explanation of why this makes sense – except saying vaguely that life is the universe awakening – whatever that means). So he is sort of gunning for what Devil’s Advocate is saying (life is fundamental).
    But even he acknowledges the physical limits.

    1. The AI situation is a very interesting one. It has a lot of smart people concerned about what could happen should a computing system gain the ability to learn and make decisions outside of its programming limits. Sam Harris has some podcasts on this topic if anyone is interested.

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